US scores stink because of how schools teach lessons

American students struggle in math. 

The latest results of an international exam given to teenagers ranked the USA ninth in reading and 31st in math literacy out of 79 countries and economies. America has a smaller-than-average share of top-performing math students, and scores have essentially been flat for two decades.

One likely reason: U.S. high schools teach math differently than other countries. 

Classes here often focus on formulas and procedures rather than teaching students to think creatively about solving complex problems involving all sorts of mathematics, experts said. That makes it harder for students to compete globally, be it on an international exam or in colleges and careers that value sophisticated thinking and data science. 

Math teacher Stephanie Hanson works with a class of 11th grade students at Burton High School in San Francisco during an algebra II/pre-calculus class Feb.10.

There is a growing chorus of math experts who recommend ways to bring America’s math curriculum into the 21st century to make it more reflective of what children in higher-performing countries learn. Some schools experiment with ways to make math more exciting, practical and inclusive. 

“There’s a lot of research that shows when you teach math in a different way, kids do better, including on test scores,” said Jo Boaler, a mathematics professor at Stanford University who is behind a major push to remake America’s math curriculum.

Standardized tests:How many exams should kids have to take?

Here are some ideas for improving it:

Stop teaching the ‘geometry sandwich’

Most American high schools teach algebra I in ninth grade, geometry in 10th grade and algebra II in 11th grade – something Boaler calls “the geometry sandwich.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *